As the 1980s makes a resurgence in the UK, fashion lovers are flocking to vintage stores to snap-up sweaters and cardigans by the pound.
In the world of fashion, “vintage” refers to an item of clothing that’s at least 20 years old and hails from a standout decade. Basically, any memorable items between the 1920s and 1980s could be deemed vintage. Each year, an item from the past finds its way into the present and once again becomes popular. With the colder months approaching, cardigans and sweaters are becoming all the rage.
Jessica Cunningham is the owner of the online fashion company Prodigal Fox. She said, “Now, vintage is starting to make a come back with turtle necks and chunky knits. People don’t want to look mainstream and vintage clothing can look very stylish and can give the newer, on trend items a bit of an edge.”
Nowadays, vintage clothing can be split into two sections. First, there is true classic vintage, which refers to authentic old items of superior quality, fabric and design. Jessica explains, “These items are hand-picked and can be pretty niche and pricey – think trompe l’oeil sweatshirts or Kaffe Fassett cardigans.”
Second is the style of the cheaper vintage clothing stores where the focus in on the appearance and cost as opposed to the quality and authenticity. Here, sweaters and cardigans can be bought by the pound. These pieces are “vintage-esque” or “vintage inspired” as true vintage is too expensive to be sold by weight. This group tends to be quirky and enjoys many aspects of the vintage lifestyle such as going to vintage teashops, cafes and Bric-a-Brac stores.
Linda Powell has been working with garments and pattern cutting for the past 30 years, she explains the materials and patterns used in vintage sweaters and cardigans: “Fair Isle and argyle are typical patterns you’d see on many vintage sweaters, particularly those golfing ones from the 1950s. Another popular pattern is cable stitching. This can be seen on jumpers where thick chains are knitted into the design. Think fisherman.”
“There’s also the very fine gauge sweaters of the 1930s and 1940s or the various types of wool like Alpaca and cashmere. In the 1980s designers were incorporating Lycra into all sorts of garments to add longevity and elasticity.”
The recent accessibility and visibility of all things vintage has made it the go-to style for an individual yet unique look. From Kate Moss to Alexa Chung, celebrities and supermodels have been snapped in cable-knit cricket jumpers and chunky crochet sweaters. Yet, it’s safe to say their items probably weren’t bought at your average thrift shop.
To avoid looking like a pastiche of a particular period, many tweak their outfits by adding modern elements. Fashion and beauty expert Gina Akers advises: “It’s all about key pieces. You can’t just cover yourself in vintage. You definitely have to plan your outfit.”
If you’re wearing a chunky cardigan then layering up might be a good move. This means wearing a shirt underneath a jumper then a cardigan and scarf on top paired with a little denim skirt or even leather pants. As for the future Gina sees the 1980s as making a comeback. “When you look at the shops now, there’s a lot of 80s stuff filtering in: oversized V-neck cardigans are back with big block schemes like rectangles and squares. The colours aren’t as loud or brash as the 80s, which can only be a good thing.”
There’re also cultural indicators that suggest Gina may be right. The hugely successful American TV show ‘Stranger Things’ set in the 80s is encouraging viewers to dress like their favourite characters. And remember the Rubik’s cube? This year the brand released a completely new version of the iconic cube called the Rubik’s Spark.
Amidst the speculation and excitement of what’s to come, there is one certainty when it comes to vintage sweaters. Regardless of how fashionable you think you are, there’s no escaping the inevitability of the classic Christmas jumper. Whether it’s a giant reindeer or a mince pie, that’s one trend that no one is happy to see return.